Google, Semantic Web Changing the Content Game

NEW YORK — It’s time to put the Semantic Web in a business context, especially for the struggling publishing industry. That’s exactly what Tom Tague, Calais Initiative Lead at Thomson Reuters, did for the audience at the opening keynote address at the Web 3.0 Conference here on Tuesday.

“The hard message [to the publishing industry] is there will be winners and losers,” Tague said. Spending is not moving from print to online media anymore: “There’s only one pie. It’s a zero-sum game, and the pie is getting smaller.”

Calais’ mission, Tague said, is to enable the winners in the sector. If you want to be among them, you had better move fast to: Automate or semi-automate workflow, improve audience development and enhance content.

The first factor may not read sexy, but it reads important, because it goes right to the heart of cost reduction, which is critical to every business today, but particularly to the battered publishing industry.

“The real world is workflow systems, custom content management systems, the stuff that lives in the boiler room of large enterprises,” Tague said. Semantic technologies must be integrated into these systems, for organizations to realize improved editorial efficiencies, generating semantic topics and metadata, tagging and moving articles through more quickly, and realizing ten to hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings.

“Cost-reduction is the way to get companies started,” he said. “It’s the way to build support within your organization.”

The bar also is being raised on audience development — improving search to get the audience and giving them a good experience to keep them. Thanks to Google’s Rich Snippets, the game is changing.

“Google is now harvesting semantic metadata,” Tague said. “And I guarantee you they will use it to decide on rankings. So while this was a nice to have a week ago, now it’s a must-have. You must embed semantic metadata within your Web pages.”

When it comes to enhancing content, it’s time for publishers to find their way into the Web of linked data. “Once you have tagged content it lets you harvest free content from the Web to enhance your publications,” he said, citing the free, open content ranging from geographic to music databases already out there in the linked data world. “If you are not using it you are not taking advantage of an incredible opportunity to enhance content for free.”

Tague recommended that organizations start small: “Find a way to semantically enable your content, get it tagged. Start a small project that uses that to save money and increase efficiency.”

[cob:Special_Report]From there, publishers can explore opportunities to use the Semantic Web in ways that get their juices flowing, such as enabling the investigative journalism process. Tague points to the ability to reduce the high costs of these important efforts by using Semantic Web technologies to automate the process of culling through mountains of information to find connections, as one news organization has done to explore nepotism and corruption around government contracts.

“But,” he advised, “don’t lead with this [as a reason for embracing semantic technologies]. It’s soft and fuzzy and requires lots of resources. But we may be entering an era of greater transparency in government and the opportunities for investigative journalism are enormous.”

The Web 3.0 conference is run by Mediabistro, a unit of WebMediaBrands, which also operates, the parent network of this Web site.

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